A major drug bust targeting methamphetamine distribution in two Arkansas counties Wednesday resulted in arrest warrants being issued for 70 individuals on federal and state charges, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


New United States Attorney Cody Hiland, who was sworn in Tuesday, announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging 44 defendants in a major operation aimed at disrupting drug and gun crimes in Pope and Yell Counties. Hiland made the announcement at Russellville, along with other law enforcement officials.


Twenty-seven individuals were arrested early Wednesday morning. Eighteen federal and two state defendants were already in custody. Twenty-three defendants, including 11 federal fugitives — 12 state fugitives remain at large.


A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office identified the federal fugitives at large as: Troy R. Loadholt, aka Tricky, 36, Russellville; April M. Teeter, aka April Crain, 37, Russellville; Brittany Ferguson, aka Brittany Gideon, 26, Russellville; Ralph A. Ross, aka R.A., 53, Atkins; Brittany S. Conner, 32, San Pedro, California; Katherine R. Ross, aka Katie, 26, Russellville; Christopher S. Helms, 34, Dardanelle; Paula S. Enos, 44, Russellville; Wesley W. Pierson, 53, Charleston; James Nicholas George, aka Nick, 37, Dardanelle; Keith C. Savage, aka K.C., 36, Belleville.


During Wednesday morning’s arrest operation, law enforcement also seized 46 guns, bringing the total number of firearms seized in the investigation to 69.


“Targeting violent, armed drug dealers will be a priority for my office, as well as for all law enforcement agencies in central Arkansas,” Hiland said. “Law enforcement at all levels is committed to working together to help rid these communities of drugs and those who are responsible for their distribution. Today’s operation is a perfect example of that coordination.”


During the nearly two-year coordinated federal and state investigation, law enforcement agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine, seizing more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as the 69 firearms and more than $70,000 in drug proceeds.


Among the 44 federal defendants are nine people who are avowed white supremacists, including eight members of the New Aryan Empire and one member of the White Aryan Resistance. The NAE slogan is “To The Dirt,” which is in reference to the rule that members must remain in the NAE until they die.


These groups are Arkansas white supremacist organizations, which began as prison gangs.


This Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, named “To The Dirt,” began in early 2016, when local law enforcement officials started investigating various crimes being committed by the NAE, including the distribution of methamphetamine.


While more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine were actually seized in Arkansas, the investigation revealed that hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine had been trafficked from California for distribution in central Arkansas in the course of this conspiracy.


A majority of the 44 federal defendants are convicted felons, many with violent histories. Among the 69 guns seized include handguns, rifles, shotguns, and several high-capacity assault-style rifles.


In addition to the methamphetamine and firearms recovered, during the investigation agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Conway Police Department seized approximately $65,000 from this drug trafficking organization, which conspirators attempted to ship through the U.S. mail from Arkansas to California for payment for methamphetamine.


All told, agents seized more than $70,000 in drug proceeds, as well as a Porsche Carrera seized in California that was used to aid methamphetamine distribution in California.


Those arrested today will be arraigned in federal court in Little Rock before United States Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday.